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Everyone calm down -- the 19 Bar isn't closing (yet)

Joel Koyoma, Star Tribune

Joel Koyoma, Star Tribune

The 19 Bar is considered the oldest gay bar in Minneapolis, and it’s not ostentatious about it.

Patrons go to the Loring Park bar, established in 1952, because they want a reasonably priced drink (and pool game) in a chill atmosphere. Some used to go not even knowing it was a gay bar, before the bar owner hung a huge neon sign that said “GAY BAR” on the wall. Mostly, people thought of it as their neighborhood place.

But the neighborhood has been changing. Last year, just down the street, Dominium Development gave Nicollet Grocery, City Wide Artists gallery, and the Jerusalem Cafe the boot so they could build a six-story apartment building. Meanwhile, Reuter Walton Development just staked out a site for a new 239-unit apartment complex, forcing out a daisy chain of small businesses: Market Bar-B-Que, Salsa a la Salsa, Ryan's Pub, Asian Taste, and Upper Cuts Barbershop.

In the midst of all the carnage, some started to worry about who was next.

Which is why when, a few days ago, rumors started to circulate about the 19 Bar getting shut down to make way for development, it seemed just terrible enough to actually happen.

The rumor is persistent enough that it’s made its way back to 19’s longtime owner, Gary Hallberg, who’s in Texas at the moment.

“One of my bartenders heard it from a customer,” he says.

Hallberg has no idea where the rumor originated, but he wants his customers to rest assured: It’s not true. Hallberg doesn’t just own the bar -- he owns the property, and he’s not thinking about selling it anytime soon. No one has even approached him about it.

Asked if there could ever be a reason he sells the building, Hallberg hedges.

“Everything’s for sale,” he says.

He just can’t imagine why he would.